Priya Patel, an 11th grade student from Sunnyside, said she’s unsure of what she wants to study in college, so she walked into the fair with lots of questions. Though she considers herself a shy person, she spoke to many company reps, including someone who was self-employed.
“She was telling us how she was in a business but she didn’t like it, so she started her own,” Patel said. “I found that really interesting.”
Chelsea Arenaza, an 11th grader from Elmhurst, said she’s interested in education and the arts. She spoke to a local sculptor at the fair, who also started his own business. She stressed the importance of getting work experiences early.
“You may not know what you want to be at the moment, but once you do internships, you gain different experiences,” Arenaza said, “and start to realize what you’re really interested in and what you like.”
The networking fair and partnerships have already produced results for many alumni. Pamela Tuwaidan, who now studies at LaGuardia Community College after graduating from Energy Tech last year, connected with the Long Island-based company Sunpower by EmPower Solar through the school’s network.
The Elmhurst resident worked there over the summer as an intern, and is continuing her internship. She primarily worked in sales and marketing, but also spent time with the CEO, the engineering department and others.
“The solar portion of it was really fun because I didn’t know that they actually installed the solar panels themselves,” she said. “I actually got to design some solar panels for houses. That was fun.”
On top of the skills she honed, Tuwaidan said she learned a lot about communication through her interactions with the entire company. She often went to events and was tasked with coming away with new leads.
That will come in handy as she pursues a career in communications. She’s currently studying journalism at LaGuardia Community College and is interested in broadcasting.
“I think it’s really interesting, getting the word out there and letting everyone know what’s new,” Tuwaidan said.
Samantha Padreddii, a digital marketing associate at Sunpower by EmPower Solar, works with Tuwaidan and helped recruit her to the company. Padreddii attended the networking fair last year simply to get to know the neighborhood, but never expected to get an intern out of it.
“I think it’s valuable, being an environmental company, seeing how much this generation really cares about it,” she said. “I know Pamela is really eager about sustainability.
“They also have a lot of technical knowledge,” she added. “Solar is a complex product, so when you have kids who already understand energy, and on top of that they care about the mission, that’s super valuable.”
Miller said Energy Tech “feels really lucky” that they are located in Long Island City, a growing tech hub with booming industrial activity, particularly with small businesses. She credited partnering companies for knowing what’s happening on the ground in the neighborhood, and connecting that back to the school.
“This area is going to show a ton of growth in the next few years, we’re excited to be a part of that,” she said. “We think that we have many of the students who will fill those jobs that will be opening in the next few years, particularly in the technology and tech-related fields.
“We’re looking for businesses who want to partner with us, who share our vision to develop the future workforce, particularly students and young people from Queens being able to stay in Queens and work in Queens,” Miller added. “It’s important to us and important to the businesses.”